The Black Prince Summary (Shirley Ann Grau)

Shirley Ann Grau


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The emotions are so simple, primitive, and stark in this story that one realizes immediately that this tale is Shirley Ann Grau’s attempt to create a legendary fantasy. The opening situates the story not only in the poorest part of the smallest and worst county in the state but also in a fairy-tale realm where the cows are wild and unmilked and the winters are short and cold. The characters, drawn simply and directly, also suggest the two-dimensional personages of a folktale romance. Alberta first appears walking down a country road proclaiming her superiority to the birds, and Stanley Albert Thompson appears out of nowhere, calling to her like some rare bird himself, claiming that he came straight out of the morning and that he saw her name in the fire.

Stanley Albert is the central figure in the story; his designation as the Black Prince, coupled with the quotation from Isaiah at the beginning of the story—“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning”—suggests that he is the Prince of Darkness. He is not so much an embodiment of pure evil, however, as he is the personification of the rebel, the outcast, the mysterious, powerful figure who arrives out of nowhere. As soon as he arrives in the small community (which does not even have a name on the map), he establishes his superiority by winning fights at the central gathering place, Willie’s Bar. In these fights, in which razors, bottles, and knives are used, Stanley Albert gets a reputation that earns for him the fear and hatred of the men and the admiration and love of the women.


(The entire section is 648 words.)